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Bernard Leach

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Bernard Leach

British, (1887–1979)

Leach was born in Hong Kong but lived in Kyoto, Japan, for four years after his mother died in childbirth. He moved back to Hong Kong, and then to Singapore, before his family returned to England. After studying at the Slade School of Fine Art in London, then a brief stint as a bank clerk, he learned etching at the London School of Art, and decided to return to Japan with the intent of teaching etching. Shortly after arriving he was introduced to raku firing at a party, and immediately decided to apprentice in Japan as a potter.

Leach’s A Potter’s Book, first published in 1940, was for many years considered the potter’s bible, providing guidance on Korean, Japanese, Chinese, and English traditions of pottery, with recipes for glazes, and information about forms, clay bodies, and more. However, it was during Leach’s extensive travels that he made the most significant impact. During the 1950s, he traveled throughout the United States with two close friends, Japanese master potter Shōji Hamada and philosopher Soetsu Yanagi. Together they conducted throwing and firing demonstrations, shared the teachings of Zen Buddhism and the aesthetic propositions of mingei (the folk craft movement in Japan), and provided a window into cultural traditions that potters had previously never encountered.

Artist Objects

Jar 1984.6

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